A final deal on a military construction spending bill for fiscal year 2004 may have to wait at least a little while. House and Senate conferees met on Oct. 22 to reconcile differences between their versions of the "mil con" appropriations measure, but ran into a snag, partly over spending on some Dept. of Defense overseas projects, including one in Korea. With congressional leaders pressing appropriators to wrap up several unfinished 2004 spending bills, talks on the mil con measure may resume by Oct. 23.

House Chairman Young: GOP leaders want spending bills wrapped up. (Photo by the House of Appropriations Committee)

Whenever an agreement is reached on the mil con legislation, the final bill's total will not be good news for the construction industry. The House and Senate versions each call for about $9.2 billion, about $1.5 billion, or 14%, below the 2003 appropriation.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young (R-Fla.), said that the Republican leaders have told him and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens that if the mil con and other conferees can't reach agreements on their bills by the week of Oct. 27, the matter will go before the full Appropriations panels. If that fails, Young says, mil con and the others will be wrapped into an omnibus spending package. He added that "the leadership intends to complete this job before November gets too old."

So far, only three of the 13 appropriations bills for 2004 have been signed into law: homeland security, defense and legislative branch. Fiscal 2004 began on Oct. 1.

Agencies without enacted 2004 spending bills have been operating generally at their 2003 budget levels under a continuing resolution. That "CR" expires Oct. 31, and an extension is nearly inevitable.